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Russia passes anti-LGBTQ law criminalizing so-called gay propaganda

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Russia’s lower house of parliament has passed the third and final reading of a bill banning the promotion of “LGBT propaganda” to children, expanding on an earlier law passed in 2013.

Under the latest package of laws, any attempt to promote homosexuality – including in film, books or advertising – could face a stiff fine.

The bill seeks to prohibit Russians from promoting or “praising” same-sex relationships, as well as sex reassignment surgery, or suggesting that they are “normal”.

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Citizens who promote what the Duma calls “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” could face a fine of up to 400,000 rubles ($6,600), while organizations could risk 5 million rubles ($82,100 ). Foreign citizens could face up to 15 days of arrest and deportation from the country.

Rights activists say the new legislation is an attempt to further oppress sexual minorities in Russia, who already face huge challenges in a conservative society that has historically prevented gay pride marches and targeted activists LGBTQ rights with impunity.

“It’s a law that prohibits the representation of a large part of society,” said Russian political activist Lucy Shtein. “Combating the visibility of LGBTQ+ people does nothing to affect the number of these people, but only causes more suffering, forcing them to hide and hate themselves.”

Shtein said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has made LGBTQ people more vulnerable because it is now much more difficult to evacuate Russian citizens who have been criticized by authorities. After Russia’s mobilization campaign, as well as the travel restrictions imposed on Russian citizens by foreign countries following the invasion, freedom of movement and access to visas became much more difficult for Russians.

Over the past year, the human rights situation in Russia has deteriorated significantly and the new legislation is “another nail in the coffin”, Shtein said.

“This war has shown that, for this government, all life is expendable and their repressions particularly affect communities that were already vulnerable before the war, including the LGBT community,” Shtein said.

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LGBTQ rights have become something of a scapegoat in President Vladimir Putin’s Russia, with many pundits associating them with “anti-Russian” values ​​promoted by the West. Lawmakers say they defend morality in the face of such “decadent” values.

“LGBT [rights] are today an element of hybrid warfare, and in this hybrid warfare, we must protect our values, our society and our children,” said one of the architects of the bill, Alexander Khinstein, last month.

The bill will now go to the upper house of the Russian parliament, the Federation Council, before being signed into law by Putin.

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